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Craft coffee shop alphabet
Craft coffee shop alphabet

The way we drink coffee at bars has changed, as we said in the post on the 20 best artisan coffee shops in Italy.

We did not hang up the Moka, mind you, but we contaminated the espresso with the arrival from northern Europe of filter coffee, that is, obtained by infusion.

It is the parallel world of specialty coffee, a sort of Cirque du Soleil of extraction, very flashy, full of technical skill with artistic implications.

To let you know, we decided to compose the specialty coffee alphabet, one letter for each keyword.

We wish newbies a good reading, to those who know it we ask for advice: the question interests us, your suggestions are very welcome.

A how Aeropress


It is the futurist coffee maker. Linear. Quick.

Water and powder are poured into hollow, concentric cylinders. We press directly on the cup that will collect our coffee, which is more cloudy than usual. The brewing time is a few minutes. Faster than the French press, which for some absurd reason you will find literally P.

B like Black Honey

Among the processing processes of ripe cherries (once harvested, the parchment, the outer shell, must be eliminated), this is certainly the most complex and expensive, as well as the one that yields the most in terms of taste, once in the cup. What am I to tell you, obviously it is the favorite of many coffee-addicted.

The processing of the bean is a factor that should not be underestimated: the trend of identifying coffees based on their cleaning begins to spread.

C like Cupping (or Brazilian Taste)


Coffee tasting ritual, complete with a special spoon, sensory analysis and spittoon (if ten glasses of wine get drunk, as many coffees would turn us into Joe Bastianich in front of a bad hamburger: for the nervous we would throw cups, instead of plates).

Body, taste and aftertaste examination, at the end of which the expert is able to identify the geographical origin of that coffee, while the neophyte is still laughing at the embarrassment caused by the suck (you have to suck strongly, in order to make the mixture reach as many taste buds as possible).

D like Drip


If I say cook and balance, think of desserts. Or to the dietician that my mother points out.

Then this alphabet is really necessary. In this extraction method, the weight of the coffee is kept under control: the V60, the Chemex, rests on the computer (which here must be very precise, I don't mean a sling bar like Breaking Bad, the TV series on chemistry and methamphetamine, but almost)., or in any case the coffee maker for your dripper, and pours the water into a paper cone that filters the ground.

And as Espresso Extraction

Although it is the "alternative" extraction methods that make the slightly hipster world of specialties more and more famous, even espresso has its own extraction rules. Pay attention when you go to the bar.

Questionable cleanliness and worn gaskets may not be within easy reach, but how long does the coffee take to get out, you will notice that. Between 20 and 30 seconds, the perfect extraction of the espresso lasts 25.

Fats, acids, amino acids and sugars: extracting coffee well means taking all its substances from the bean, enhancing its aroma and properties.

F like Filter

The most widespread in the world (especially in the States and Northern Europe), identifies Italy as the country of the Moka pot. Because with us, there is not much row. It is the one that is prepared by infusion, the filter (usually made of paper) filled with powder in boiling water.

If you go to a traditional Neapolitan coffee shop and ask for a filter coffee, they might answer you with the famous phrase by Renato Carosone: "Tu vuo fà l'americano?". Not only because it is seen as a strange novelty, but also because, just as mistakenly, it is often confused with the American. Which instead is the elongated espresso.

G like Green Coffee classification

The international ranking of green coffees, by SCAA (go to letter U of USA, or be patient). According to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) it is "An excellent way to classify coffee". More than this.

It distinguishes in Specialty Grade (here they are), Premium Grade, Exchange Grade, Below Standard Grade and Off Grade, from the best to the ones full of flaws.

H like Hipster

Come on, let's face it. The followers of Specialty, in Italy, represent an alternative subculture.

Always associated with niche trends and craftsmanship, the concept of "hipsterism" today lends itself well to the high-quality cafeteria, which makes a trademark of bearded barmen, blackboards hanging on the walls with well-described single origins and minimalist locations. Not to mention their coffee makers, real fetishes of the à la page barman.

I like Ibrik (or cevze)


The expression "stay a cream" should have its origins in Turkish coffee. It perfectly describes its density and expresses the peaceful calm with which it should be consumed.

And prepared, since once the coffee (ground as finely as possible) has been put, water and sugar in the small long-handled brass jug (ibrik), the gas must be kept low. So low that the mixture never boils.

For coffee cooked in the Middle Eastern and Balkan way, a narrow saucepan would be enough. Let's face it. But the Ibrik is a great beautiful object.

L like Milk Art

Milk Art
Milk Art

Hearts on the cappuccino, you know. "Nice stuff," you say.

Well know that it is in this confusion of techniques from the Native Americans, this is Italian. So we respect the coffee designs, which are difficult to make and in some cases they are even beautiful. Think of the Japanese artist Kazuki Yamamoto, deliberately inspired by Salvador Dalì.

M like Single origin (versus Blend)

Come on, we are in the world of blind cupping (the correspondent of wine tasting with the label covered, except that in the Specialty the tasting is done without knowing the origin or variety). Here we drink the coffee and with a certain certainty, not without wisdom, we conclude: “Good. Well sure, it's a Jamaica Blue Mountain"

Trendy cafes fill their single-origin blackboards, coming from a specific plantation, capable of giving the fruit recognizable characteristics. This is the case of the Brazilian Bourbon and the Indian Mysore Nugget.

N like Neapolitan (or cuccumella)


French origins, such as the square chocolate of the Naples type. The coffee pot that has entered the tradition of southern Italy and that Eduardo De Filippo has made a cultural object, in These Ghosts, returns today to be present in fashionable bars.

You have to be patient. Ten minutes or so: since the steam comes out and the fire goes out, the Neapolitan turns around and the water flows slowly through the filter full of coffee. And here the south, before yielding to the hegemony of espresso, had launched the filter coffee fashion.

Or like Over, Pour Over

pour over
pour over

Anglophone expressions: so banal as to amaze. Pour over indicates that the water is "poured over", hitting the center in the filter containing the coffee.

P like Plunger Coffee (or French Press)

The French coffee maker was invented by an Italian. Ups. A point to our national pride in the eternal competition with the Franco-gastronomic world (so now we are 1 to 1, with the question of the "Neapolitan"..).

Yet the thing does not seem to interest us. Even the glass with a lid equipped with a plunger is not very common in our area. Metal mesh filter and very coarsely ground coffee, because it is left to infuse in water for at least four minutes.

N. B: In coffee extraction methods, the longer the contact time with water, the coarser the grinding must be, so as not to burn the aromas.

Q like Q-Grader

He is the coffee taster, the one who has made us a profession of cupping. It has passed 22 tests to be able to give credible evaluations; now decides prices and availability for the best green coffees in circulation.

The Q-Program, which from the name seems to come out of a 007, was born with the intention of creating a common point of reference between buyers and sellers, on the quality of coffee.

R like Robust (versus Arabica)

Arabica Vs Robusta
Arabica Vs Robusta

The commonplace, which sees robusta (right in the photo) as a nerdy variety, finds the support of the Specialty world. Generally speaking, we can say that the is more bitter and astringent.

In rare cases, it can be qualitatively better than Arabica (more delicate and aromatic). For example, if we are talking about Robusta Capiroyal, a highly prized hand-picked Indian, vanilla, spiced.

S like SCAE (Specialty Coffee Association of Europe)

They are the non plus ultra of Specialty coffee, the little chemists of the Vacuum (go to the letter V), the nerds of roasting, the evangelizers of the premium-price cup. Continuous?

The professionals of the coffee that claims quality have joined together. In Italy there are 500 members, including companies and more or less hipster baristas. Among themselves, they speak of standards of excellence. Then they form followers, organize sensory analyzes, communicate their beliefs.

T like Roasting

Okay the scenography of the extraction (it is only the showcase of this curious subculture), but the term Specialty certainly does not refer to a design appliance, but to a coffee supply chain, which differs from the others since the plantation, passing through a roasting worthy of highlighting all its aromatic potential.

A Specialty cannot be said to be such if it has not been roasted "fresh".

U like USA

If SCAE can boast of promoting the culture of quality coffee in Europe, it owes a very zealous older sister who lives overseas: the SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America), which in 1982 began to gather small coffee roasters.

V like Vacuum


Sophisticated device that uses two siphons (hence the name of the Siphon extraction method) and two good chapters of the physics manual to make up for the drama that afflicts our time: the coffee grounds (common to the simpler infusion coffee).

Called vacuum cafeteria: the boiling water rises in the upper container in the form of gas, passing through the ground coffee. Here the liquid is reformed, which precipitates downwards, filtered by a cork.

Z like Zero

No, we are not referring to the coffee of the Coca Cola Company, which in this glossary clashes like Marylin Manson among the white voices of the Piccolo Coro dell’Antoniano (that of the Zecchino d’Oro).

Zero is the tolerance towards defects. Because a Specialty, in the above tasting, must be practically perfect: according to the Cupping Protocol (yes, it exists) it must have obtained a score higher than 80/100 to be defined as such. They also get fleas on the coffee / water ratio (and which water, then?), On the particle size, on the contact time.. In short, high standards and sticks on the hands.

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